The start of a new calendar year is a great time to rethink tactical plans and update knowledge on growing industry trends; wiping off the cobwebs from 2016 and starting afresh. The unified communications (UC) market will make strides in 2017 as a myriad of advanced technologies will shift how businesses and consumers converse. Here are my seven 2017 predicted trends in UC that will come on your radar - I'd love to hear what yours are in the discussion at the bottom of the blog.
Interoperability Significance Rises with the Departure of Single-vendor UC Strategy
Companies are constantly struggling with changing business environments. They wake up one day and all of a sudden they need a new technology solution from a new vendor. To remain competitive, they simply can't rely on a single UC vendor. Moreover, users want choice, they will use whatever is convenient and just like BYOD, the enterprise will be forced to adapt. This means the need for interoperability will remain and grow. Because most organizations will be on disparate platforms from any number of different UC vendors, they will need a holistic solution that can seamlessly monitor, manage and optimize their multi-vendor UC environment from the application down to the network layer devices.
The UC Cloud Adoption Struggle is Real
Many businesses will continue to initially struggle in adopting the cloud unified communications. Installed IT architecture at most companies was never intended to carry the load for voice, video and collaboration tools. It was built for data exchange and data processing. Trying to bend infrastructure out of place to fit a growing need rarely garners the desired result. Fully functioning unified communications requires a fundamentally new and different technology infrastructure. Consider video. Organizations are already working overtime to integrate voice communications into their IT infrastructures. Well, take that challenge and multiply by a factor of 100 that's the hurdle video presents. Another major stumbling block is what I call the pilot trap. It's common to conduct a cloud UC pilot with, say, 100 users to see how it goes. Often such pilots are a complete success. Then, when the system goes live and the company adds another 5,000 users, existing IT infrastructures buckle under the strain of the added traffic. Organizations must invest in a UC network readiness assessment and address issues before they affect users.
Enhanced CX from Apps with UC
app to contact the bank directly and all the relevant information will be automatically transferred to the customer service rep in the contact center. Consumers are quickly becoming
accustomed to this convenience and will soon want it all the time. UC will become an embedded part of applications, not a separate application.
Collaboration Tools Acknowledged as Big UC Players
Slack, Google, HipChat, Teams, Facebook Messenger and others have been growing gradually but 2017 will seem them become real players in the UC market. These companies are ramping up their enterprise applications around voice, video and collaboration. In fact, WebRTC applications that can conduct real-time, peer-to-peer voice and video communications through a browser, without the need for plug-ins, will multiply exponentially in the enterprise. It's a question of convenience for users - they want it - and existing providers will either have to offer it or die. People have grown accustomed to using easy video applications like Skype and FaceTime in their personal lives and they are now demanding the same ease of use and functionality from their UC apps at work.
Compliance will be a Core Consideration
Today's interactions with customers are increasingly digital. And, for compliance reasons, many companies need to keep records of those interactions, whether they occur over voice, video or via the web. Storage and management of traditional digital data is comparatively easy when comparted to the challenges that come with storing voice and video. These both require exponentially more storage as well as management. As more and more interactions occur through voice and video compliance will require they be stored, searchable and retrievable. So how do you store all that data? How can you be assured of retrieval so that it can be analyzed if required? Organizations will need to sharpen their focus on compliance as they embrace UC tools and communicate with more of their customers digitally.
Automation No Longer a "Nice if" for Managed Service Providers ROI
2017 will highlight the level of complexity technology has reached and how difficult it is for companies to deal with. UC systems often sit on top of a very complex digital ecosystem—an ecosystem in which problems can come from 1,000 possible directions and are virtually impossible to anticipate, detect or fix manually. Managed service providers (MSPs) who continue to rely on human labor in offshore locations to operate their UC will crumble. The traditional labor arbitrage model is dying, quickly. This complexity is a core driver of automation because it is too demanding to manage the old way. MSPs need automation to ensure their systems are healthy and ready for action. And, if something does go awry, they need an expert system that can automatically look across the entire digital ecosystem, find the problem and fix it in real time, before any damage is done. The MSPs that survive and thrive will be the ones that acknowledge that labor arbitrage is a broken model and transition to technology and automation arbitrage instead.
UC Welcomes Bots and Digital Assistants
Bots are computer programs that act a lot like humans, simulating conversation with users in a chat window or on a voice call. They can perform a number of different automated tasks. They can help users schedule a meeting, manage their finances or find a good sports bar in an unfamiliar city. They can also help ensure the successful use of UC tools. This sort of bot could be an automated attendant that watches the interactions on all your UC systems and provides instructions to users. For instance, a digital assistant could alert a user who is working in an airport WiFi zone that the signal is not robust enough to support simultaneous use of video conferencing and web chat. Frustration averted.
These are my seven UC predictions for 2017, do you agree with them? Sure, one or two of them may turn out to be off the mark. But here's a prediction I guarantee will be true: it will be a very exciting year for the UC market. Feel free to share your own predictions in the comments below.